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02 February 2024

Focus on the professional role: "Responsibility ... and freedom?"

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In the vibrant ecosystems of our companies and public authorities, "taking responsibility" should be more than just a buzzword - it should be a (lifestyle) attitude.

And this assumption of responsibility is actually being demanded from several directions: on the one hand, companies want and need more employees who actively and proactively assume responsibility themselves. On the other hand, this ability to take responsibility is also increasingly being demanded of well-trained employees who are willing to develop.

"Taking responsibility" - what does that mean? A broadening of understanding.

Taking responsibility at company level is still often understood as: "The freedom to make important decisions yourself". And it is just as often associated with the hope of being able to implement / enforce these self-made decisions.

Perhaps this understanding is already an illusion: we are seeing an increasing number of networked contexts and problems in companies that arise in one place, but can only be solved across the board. We see that in the run-up to a successful product development and market launch, perhaps thousands of decisions have to be made on specialised knowledge and details that an individual can never keep track of. And therefore can no longer take responsibility for them.

Perhaps this type of responsibility, understood as "freedom of choice", is only given in very rare exceptional situations these days. 

But there is a great need for people who take on the responsibility of tackling tricky problems and solving complex challenges together with other people. And these people should have the freedom to bring together everyone they need to make really strong, accepted, viable and realisable decisions on these issues. And then to make the decision together (!) and take joint responsibility for its successful implementation.

What does this concept of responsibility mean for my own professional role?

In connection with our own professional role in the company, the question that needs to be clarified is whether we as role holders have this kind of freedom. This is the actual, the new endowment of a professional role with responsibility and freedom: whether I can deal with important issues by bringing together those who have something to contribute. And to develop solutions together and implement them.
And not how many lonely (pseudo) decisions a manager has made.

Half the way to more responsibility for more employees has already been travelled ...

The experience and practice of freedom on an individual level within the framework of the overall organisation has a much more "down-to-earth" and feasible quality: part-time work, hybrid workplaces with a self-determined proportion of home office, an individual training budget ... are all approaches to promote the concrete experience of self-efficacy and self-determination in people. 
And let's be honest: the vast majority of experienced employees we know are perfectly capable of organising and managing themselves in a way that suits their own needs and at the same time meets the needs and strategic requirements of the company. These employees weigh up what a good balance between these two areas of life would look like - they take responsibility for the company and themselves at the same time. 
In terms of modern corporate management, it is certainly worth considering aligning the rules, specifications and guidelines in the company with this large majority in the company and not with the small majority, who can probably only be controlled by disciplinary means anyway.

Personnel development happens here en passent

Incidentally, there can hardly be more genuine personnel development on the subject of "taking responsibility":
Because this practice of role, freedom and responsibility described above leads to the experience of action control and self-efficacy in an organisational context.
And it becomes a compass for effective action and at the same time an opportunity for personal development.
Furthermore, this understanding (and the resulting development) can be an essential component of a leadership culture in which "responsibility" is one of the constructive target values.

In conclusion, this once again emphasises the inextricable link between strategy, structure and culture. The design of the individual professional role has a systemic effect on these three core elements of corporate development.


Read the next blog on the topic of "role": tools and methods

Über den Autor

Thomas Huber. Versteht, dass sich Menschen, Teams und Unternehmen nur gemeinsam entwickeln und entsprechend systemisch ist seine Beratung. Mit Genuss und Neugier hat er eine ziemliche Expertise in allen drei Feldern entwickelt. Neben Strategieentwicklung, Changeprozessen und Teamentwicklung ist die Künstliche Intelligenz in all ihren Anwendungsformen sein Steckenpferd - nicht nur in der Strategieberatung.

Good Leadership starts here.